We are all just puzzle pieces

30Dec10

The one thing I’ve always struggled with in music journalism (granted, I haven’t done much of that recently) is maintaining the balance between Kevin Brosky, the aspiring music journalist, and Kevin Brosky, the crazed music fanatic.

See the problem is (at least, I think it’s a problem), I am and have always been a music fan first. So many of the bands I’ve written about over the past few years have been bands I’ve dearly admired previously. Even ones with whom I’m not as familiar, I often end up falling in love with after meeting them, hearing a bunch of their music and seeing them live. Furthermore, as a musician myself, I’m absolutely fascinated by the creative processes of other musicians, their nuances as live performers and just their general lifestyles.

So when I get into a sold out show at the Barbary by being Kurt Vile’s “roadie” or I talk to Alex Dezen over the phone for a short interview, it’s hard for me to not jump through the roof with excitement. And that’s just it: Music excites me in a way that nothing else ever has.

In truth, I shouldn’t be writing about a guy like Alex Dezen, the lead singer and songwriter for my favorite band, the Damnwells. The journalism world would call that a “conflict of interest,” the natural second thing I struggle with, being such a music fan.

That said, sometimes those musicians with whom you develop a relationship or admiration, are also the people you most want to write about and who deserve the coverage but might not get it.

In my four years at Temple University, I met some absolutely terrific musicians, who became even better friends. A group of us put together a few open mics at a campus performance space we rented out called The Underground, where we met even more talented musicians.

I had gotten so used to meeting new great performers that I didn’t think anything of it when Brittany Ann took the stage with her acoustic guitar at an open mic last fall. She introduced “Puzzle Pieces” and began finger-picking a delicate ballad in C major. Then she started singing.

I was floored, along with every other person in the room. Her voice was delicate at places, fiery at others and altogether captivating as she guided the audience through her purest emotions and words.

“To love somebody is to feel their pain/ It’s to go insane when they’re not OK,” she professed on her chorus.

Her second verse even further explained strands of wisdom well ahead of her age.

And I take you just the way you are
‘Cause that’s how you came to me
I think when love becomes conditional,
It turns to currency
And that’s not the way it’s supposed to be
You know, if it’s real,
It will defy our every insecurity

As I later learned, Brittany wrote that song, and many of her other songs, as a high school student.

Brittany Ann and friends perform at the Wildflower Cafe in Bethlehem, PA.

In my final year at Temple, we became good friends. I dueted with her on “Puzzle Pieces” a number of times. Brittany was a frequent performer at house performances in my apartment’s basement, turning every one into a massive, all-night singalong. It’s those kinds of memories I already miss most about my time at Temple.

This fall Brittany Ann released her debut album, The Good in That, a ten-song, tightly-wound folk tapestry. The record winds like a river through an array of moods, set by the songwriter’s precise acoustic playing and dynamic, daring voice. There’s the elegant “Kings and Saturdays” and the mystical “October.” There’s the hopeful “Song for Freedom,” on which she urges the world to simply, “Try out love.”

So profound, yet pure and simple, are the resounding truths in Brittany Ann’s lyrics that they remain suspended in midair, leaving the listener feeling warmly enlightened, long after she sings the album’s final word.

The Good in That

So that was the point of this somewhat unfocused blog post: an album review. A completely conflicted, biased album review.

And I, Kevin Brosky (the music fan), do not care much about conflicts of interest, at this juncture.

Buy Brittany’s record. It’s a tremendous accomplishment for a young songwriter who has much, much more on the horizon.

You can stream The Good in That for free at brittanyann.bandcamp.com and buy the record at cdbaby.com.

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